Indonesian president calls for calm after violent protests in West Papua | World news

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The Indonesian president has called for calm after days of violent protests against and by ethnic West Papuans.

President Joko Widodo urged people to forgive each other “as fellow countrymen” instead of getting angry, while pledging to look after the “honour and welfare of all people in Papua and West Papua”.

“My brothers and sisters in Papua and West Papua, I know you feel offended,” he said. “It’s okay to be emotional, but it’s better to be forgiving. Patience is also better.”

Widodo’s comments came after thousands of people took to the streets of the West Papuan provincial capital, Manokwari, on Monday, setting fire to a legislative council building, in protest against racist abuse and mass arrests of Papuan students in the Indonesian city of Surabaya.

A separatist movement has simmered for decades in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces, Papua and West Papua, while Indonesian security forces have been frequently accused of human rights abuses.

On Saturday, Indonesia’s Independence Day, more than 40 Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, were arrested over the alleged damage to an Indonesian flag in front of a dormitory, according to Papuan activists.


Angry mobs gathered outside the dorms and reportedly chanted racist and anti-Papuan slogans, and threatened violence.

Governor of East Java, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, apologised for the behaviour of the mob, and said it “does not represent the voice of the people of East Java”.

All students were released after questioning, but the police raid and the use of teargas was a “totally disproportionate” response, Indonesian human rights lawyer, Veronica Koman, said.

Indonesian security minister, Wiranto, pledged an investigation into what happened in Surabaya.

Koman and student protesters told Guardian Australia they expected protests to continue. Koman said the Indonesian government had restricted the internet in the West Papua region.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, pictured here at a ceremony to celebrate Indonesia’s 74th Independence Day on 17 August, 2019, has called for calm in West Papua. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The governor of Papua province, Lukas Enembe, demanded an end to the racist treatment of Papuans across Indonesia, and called for all provincial leaders to protect Papuan students.

“ This is our common effort to prevent similar incidents in the future as well as to uphold nationalism and unity as fellow Indonesians,” he said.

“We hope that all non-Papuan people in all parts in Indonesia will maintain harmony by not taking any unconstitutional actions such as persecution, vigilante violence, selfishness, racism, discrimination and intolerance, as well as any other actions that can hurt Papuan people’s feelings or undermine harmony,” he said.

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